After acquiring formal training at a hospitality school in France, Parisian Arnaud Dissais cut his teeth through a number of positions at hotels and restaurants in Paris and London, including Hotel de Crillon, Criterion, the May Fair Hotel, and Sketch, where he began to take a deeper interest in bar culture. It wasn’t until his time at La Mamounia that the general manager asked him to step behind the bar on a day when everyone else called in sick. Back in Paris he began working at the lauded Plaza Athénée when a former colleague in New York beckoned him across the pond to become head bartender at DANIEL. In April he crossed another body of water to helm the bar at Loosie Rouge, the New Orleans-inspired bar serving up aged Vieux Carrés and “Arnaud Palmers” in Williamsburg. Here, Dissais chats about the high and low bartending experience, his favorite kind of patron, and where he’s heading next for good drinks — and even better ice.
BoozeMenus: What's the number one reason you bartend?
Arnaud Dissais: Creativity, contact with the customers, and the atmosphere. It’s about being in a relaxed place with cool people and good music while serving great drinks.
BM: What was the process like in creating the drinks menu at Loosie Rouge?
AD: You need to try to keep the theme of the place, so we started with New Orleans cocktails and put our own twist on them. It’s also about staying seasonal as you pick flavors and ingredients. Something new for me at Loosie was adapting to cocktails on tap, which was a challenge because you’re creating cocktails in high quantities, and you need to be really precise on measurements and the types of ingredients you use. The process is completely different than how you make a standard cocktail, but it has been a great learning experience.
BM: What did your time overseas at Plaza Athénée teach you about bartending?
AD: It taught me how to make concept drinks, and how to push my creativity to the limit. I learned techniques from Thierry Hernandez, Nicolas Murdaca, Christophe Michalak, and a team of extremely skilled bartenders. I also learned how to work in a fast-paced, high volume bar. This experience also gave me the opportunity to work with high-end ingredients and products.
BM: How would you compare your time bartending abroad versus that in NYC?
AD: It’s really tough to compare. It’s a different culture. London, Paris, and New York all have different cultures when it comes to the bar scene, but the three cities are all doing really great things right now at a really high level of skill and innovation.
BM: Who has been most influential within your work, so far?
AD: It started with my friend in London when he asked me to work behind the bar. It was a huge life shift for me. Christophe Michalak, Thierry Hernandez, Nicolas Murdaca, Daniel Boulud, Xavier Herit, and Nico de Soto. They are phenomenal professionals in the industry, and have taught me an immense amount of knowledge around technique, passion, and rigor. There have been so many people that believed in me over the years. I could give you a ton of names.
BM: Are you more comfortable serving drinks in a high-end setting or a casual one?
AD: Both. I had the opportunity to work in both types of places. They are different, but they both present really great experiences for people, and I appreciate that. For more than ten years, I worked in high-end places, so to be honest, it took some adjustment coming to a more casual spot. Customers are looking for something different by coming to a casual verus high-end place, but both ends of the spectrum bring great things to the table.
BM: Have you encountered any really interesting ingredients in making the drinks at Loosie Rouge?
AD: We have focused a lot on playing up New Orleans style-cocktails, which means looking at a variety of spices and seasonal products.
BM: Who is your favorite kind of patron?
AD: People who appreciate what we’re doing, and who are looking to enjoy themselves. People who respect the bar, and who can enjoy the moment and be a part of the atmosphere.
BM: What has this industry given you?
AD: It has given me the opportunity to try a lot of products—food, wine, and so on. I’ve also been able to speak to so many different types of people, both colleagues and customers, in a number of different cities. It really opened my mind to the world out there, and the variety of interesting and amazing people.
BM: Where are you drinking next?
AD: I would love to go to Japan to learn about their bar culture. Japan is doing some great things, and their culture emphasizes respect for the ingredients, precision in their work, and highly skilled technique. For example, the way they carve their ice is really impressive.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos Courtesy of Loosie Rouge | From Left: Cocktail, Interior, Cocktail)